SINGAPORE (Reuters) - U.N.-led climate change talks that aim to rein in planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions are running out of time but have not been derailed by the financial crisis, Australia’s top climate diplomat said on Friday.
Officials from about 190 nations gather from December 1 in the Polish city of Poznan as part of a series of meetings on how to expand the Kyoto Protocol climate pact from 2013.
The talks are meant to conclude at the end of next year in the Danish capital Copenhagen and aim to bind the United States, China, India and other major emitters to curbs on their greenhouse pollution.
But many specifics of the new pact have yet to be sorted out.
“I haven’t detected any change in approach as a result of the financial crisis,” said Howard Bamsey, Australia’s special envoy for climate change.
Fears have grown the financial crisis and looming global recession would delay efforts to fight global warming.
Yvo de Boer, the United Nations’ top climate official, said last week both issues could make citizens in rich nations reluctant to divert taxes to tackling climate change.
“It’s obviously pre-occupying many of the people who will have to be involved in the climate change process. But I‘m not seeing any immediate impact on the negotiations,” Bamsey told Reuters in an interview from Canberra.
“We’re now in a process of genuine negotiation where there is a very broad commitment to reaching agreement. That’s created momentum,” said Bamsey.
Bamsey is a veteran climate change diplomat who took part in the negotiations that led to the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and has attended all but one of the annual U.N. climate change meetings.
Over the next year, nations need to resolve how to fund and assist in adapting to climate change impacts, such as rising seas and more intense droughts, floods and melting glaciers.
“What has to be negotiated is the role for international cooperation beyond local action,” Bamsey said in regard to finding a formula that helps all nations adapt.
Agreement on transfering clean energy technologies is another key issue. So, too, is deciding on the best methods to reduce emissions by paying developing nations to keep their tropical rainforests standing so they can soak up vast amounts of CO2.
Technology transfer is a major demand of China and other developing nations to help them clean up their industries while keeping their economies growing.
Climate change talks hosted by China last week focused heavily on technology transfer and concerns about intellectual property rights. China wants rich nations to contribute up to one percent of their economic worth to pay for clean energy technology in developing countries.
“It’s going to be very important that all of the major economies, all of those that contribute most to greenhouse gas emissions are fully engaged in a cooperative manner if we are going to resolve the problem. It’s just a question of arithmetic,” Bamsey said.
But time was running out.
“We have an enormous range of important issues to resolve and few of them are easy. With so little negotiating time available, every minute counts,” he said.
Bamsey felt the process of holding meetings every few months in different cities was not ideal in reaching agreement by end-2009 and regular meetings at one venue was more efficient.
“We are extraordinarily lean in the way we’ve resourced the negotiations. We have to make substantial change to the way the global economy works. Otherwise we won’t succeed,” he added.
A key issue, too, was confidence countries were taking steps to fight global warming. He pointed to Australia’s pledge to create a $100 million ($64 million) global carbon capture and storage institute and a A$150 million adaptation fund over four years for Asia-Pacific nations as confidence-building steps.
Australia, the world’s leading coal exporter and among the world’s top per-capita carbon polluters, has also pledged to implement a sweeping emissions trading scheme by 2010.
Bamsey was confident the Copenhagen talks would succeed.
“I‘m optimistic but certainly not suggesting that agreement will be easy, that Copenhagen will fix every problem automatically because the deadline is there. These negotiations are very dense, the stakes are enormous.”
Editing by Jerry Norton